You are here:   Dispatches > Istanbul: Press Freedom Alla Turca
 

The government, meanwhile, has been locking down larger and larger portions of the internet: more than 1,000 websites have been banned, among them YouTube. Most of these bans have been initiated by the judiciary, not the executive, but the AKP has done nothing to change the laws the judiciary is enforcing.

So what's left? Chiefly such newspapers as Zaman and Yeni Safak — the AKP's unofficial mouthpiece — which are staunchly Islamist and connected to or controlled by the AKP or the Gülen media empire. Now, cronyism and government influence over the media is nothing new in Turkey; it would be completely misleading to suggest otherwise. What's new, and disturbing, is the agenda this media consolidation is now serving and the eagerness of foreign journalists to swallow it whole and promote it.

If Turkish citizens are taking to the streets to denounce Israel, who can blame them? Here's what they're reading in the Turkish press. Yasin Aktay of Yeni Safak, a popular figure on the talk-show circuit, writes: "Israel is contrary to logic, to human rights and to democracy." Ali Bulaç, a columnist for Zaman, describes Gaza as "a concentration camp that in reality surpasses the Nazis camps". In Ortadogu, Selcuk Duzgun warns: "We are surrounded. Wherever we look we see traitors. Wherever we turn we see impure, false converts. Whichever stone you turn over, there is a Jew under it. And we keep thinking to ourselves: Hitler did not do enough to these Jews." Abdurrahim Karakoç of Vakit adds: "It is impossible not to admire the foresight of Adolf Hitler...Hitler foresaw what would happen these days. He cleansed off these swindler Jews, who believe in racism for a religion and take pleasure in bathing the world in blood, because he knew that they would become a big a curse for the world...The second man with foresight is evidently Osama bin Laden...It was Hitler yesterday, and it is Osama bin Laden today." 

What is astonishing, then, is not that we see so much hostility towards Israelis among Turks, but that we see so little of it. Given the level of anti-Semitic propaganda to which they are exposed, this can only be attributed to their basic decency. 

The Turkish Penal Code clearly prohibits incitement on the basis of religion, but no one is ever prosecuted for writing this garbage, although the prime minister has, par contre, sued a cartoonist for depicting him as a cat caught in a ball of string — after all, that was really offensive. Turkey's religious affairs department has recently been given the right to request the banning of anti-Islamic and sacrilegious websites. They are duly banned.

The wonderment of this story is that, certain honourable exceptions aside, the Western media embraces the idea that the main threat to press freedom here comes from the military and from the antediluvian, anti-democratic secular elites, who in the received narrative long to return to what Michael Thumann, for example, in the Wilson Quarterly, published by the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, calls a "decaying old order". On the other hand, he continues: 
"Pious Muslims lead the way toward modernisation...The AKP is conservative, but contrary to critics' suspicions it is not a religious party...after eight years in power the AKP has not pursued any Islamist objectives, such as establishing laws based on religious sources." 

View Full Article
 
Share/Save
 
 
 
 
june
November 9th, 2011
7:11 PM
Claire, Do you actually want us to believe that a military coup happens spontaneously? That there are no plans or blueprints. All coups have a plan - who are you to say that Ergenekon is fiction? The violence that preceeded the 1980 coup was remarkably similar excluding Greek part of course. And as far as the poor generals in prison - they were the ones that created the laws that caused people to rot in jail for indeterminate lengths of time - university student socialist activists, professors and sociologists that sat in jail for years on end and than got 10+ years. They are getting what they gave and what they deserve minus the torture, so cry me a river. To other readers - for a better perspective read this link by a reuters journalist who was on trial for her reportage. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2010/11/24/the_historical_blindnes...

june
November 9th, 2011
6:11 PM
An interesting mixture of fact, cherry picked facts interspersed with fiction and omissions, and opinion, which combined removes this piece from the category of journalism. Hamas did indeed win an election in Gaza, the IHH did indeed collect aid (I assisted with this), and if I were you I'd be more concerned with the growing presence and influence of Saudi Wahabbi schools than moderate Gulen who is not as rabid as the christian missionaries of the last century. Your fear is Islam is showing and has distorted your perception. As for corruption - of course the AKP is corrupt - you name me a government anywhere that does not suffer from corruption and deceit. Your piece is insulting to the intelligence.

Danny Black
November 16th, 2010
7:11 AM
For Justice, are you joking about the Palestinians? Israel can't blow its nose without the UN getting involved. Maybe you are confusing the Palestinians with Pakistanis in Baluchistan. Johnny Hogue, you ventured outside of Istanbul much? Hmmm, Hamas took total power in 2007, violently. US and Israel apparently didn't try very hard. fewthingstoadd, The Mavi brought expired medicine and the UN human "rights" council was the one which condemned Israel as they do on a regular basis. Of course they didn't praise North Korea for tackling obesity like the chinese member for the UN health organisation did.....( Seriously... )

AT
October 11th, 2010
6:10 AM
Excellent analysis. Gulen Cult Movement is backed by CIA. He is, according to FBI that came out during Gulen's Green Card application, a 'Major CIA Operative'. Gulen schools have been opened in critical countries from Central Asia to Africa both to show milder side of Islam and for CIA agents to move freely as 'teachers'. Gulen's media in Turkey (Zaman, Samanyolu, Aksiyon, Today's Zaman) and other AKP media (Sabah, Bugun, Yeni Safak, etc.) have been manipulating the masses while independent press have been threatened by massive tax fines ($3 billion for Dogan Media Group), journalists are self-censored, and very few opposing journalists (Tuncay Ozkan, Mustafa Balbay, ...) have been in jail for over 2 years.

fewthingstoadd
October 6th, 2010
12:10 PM
Altough I agree in some parts of the article and am worried as well about the press freedom and regime danger in Turkey, I have to say that there are several wrong information in this article, which are hence, not based on sources. Such as; 1) author said: "...they do not know that there were no humanitarian supplies on the Mavi Marmara".. Q: So what is the resource for this information? Who says that there were no humanitarian supplies at the ship? 2) Author says: "Almost no one in Turkey understands any language but Turkish" Q: Again on which statistics is this information based? Not knowing the fact, I did a quick wikipedia search and saw that 12 million people speaks english as a foreign language in Turkey(17% of the population) and this number and percentage as well is way higher than some more developed countries (Russian, Japan, Mexico, China, the least but not least.. Israel (1.37%)) 3) About the Mavi marmara, Yeni Safak, Ortadogu, and Vakit (neccessary to add: these are some of the least popular newspapers in Turkey) were not the only newspapers who were against the attack of Israeli soldiers, but all the media was critizing it. (Anyway, already United Nations found Israel guilty in the subject, because of violating the international law) Just let's try to be always more honest

Sona
October 2nd, 2010
12:10 PM
Gulen is a liar, he has emassed a fortune of $25 billion by controlling media, education, military, police and politicans. This is the same approach he is doing world wide under the guise of "interfaith dialog" and "understanding". In the USA he is robbing the American taxpayers and the Gulen Movement or Hizmet manages over 140 Charter schools. Teaching our American children Turkish language and customs. http://www.charterschoolwatchdog.com http://www.charterschoolscandals.blogspot.com

Rob Fairchild
September 30th, 2010
9:09 AM
Thank you so much for exposing how the Gulen Movement has gotten such favorable press. I long wondered about such pieces as Sabrina Tavernise's May 4, 2008 New York Times article "Turkish Schools Offer Pakistan a Gentler Vision of Islam" which was pure propaganda for Gulen's schools in Asia. The Gulen Movement is probably the best manipulator of the press that the world has ever seen. Note the paragraph in the above article beginning "I am regularly invited to lectures for foreign journalists here sponsored by the Gülen movement...." This isn't just happening in Turkey, it's happening IN THE UNITED STATES. Look at this propaganda piece that they managed to get the Texas Tribune to publish just the other day http://www.texastribune.org/texas-education/texas-education-agency/what-... Those of you who follow these issues in Turkey, PLEASE start noticing our struggle against the Gulen Movement here in the United States. They have infiltrated our publicly-funded charter school system and now run over a hundred such schools all over the country. We are tired of journalists falling for their press releases! Their schools are no service to us, and are nothing but fronts for the Gulen Movement to grab American money and bring thousands of their followers into our country under the H1B visa system. PLEASE somebody start paying attention to, and exposing, what the Gulen Movement is really doing in the US! Ms. Berlinski....can you help us?

sefrew
September 13th, 2010
9:09 PM
Great analysis and it is all true.No one in Turkey has freedom even to think as every way of enlightenment has been blocked for years and situation got even worse under the AKP regime. There is a saying in the country which is Turkish version of Descartes' famous statement:"Cogito ergo sum" meaning "I think therefore I exist.";"Dusunuyorum oyleyse vurun." meaning "I think therefore I should be shot." There is a lot to see behind the scene.

Andrew Lale
September 10th, 2010
4:09 PM
I find it hilarious that people are comparing wealth statistics between Turkey and the US. When was the last time somebody risked their life to enter the nirvana that is Turkey?

Johnny Hogue
September 6th, 2010
7:09 AM
An ex-USA cititzen, I lived in Istanbul for 7 of my 10 years here. I have seen amazing economic changes for the better. I also believe the AKP has reached a point where their power can become dangerous by nature of no significant opposition. An outstanding article regarding points about media control and fear mongering among the population by the controlled media--just like in the USA. HAMAS swept elections in Jan 2006, then the US and Israel stepped in, just like the USA did in Vietnam in the late 1950's. According to the OECD Gini reports, income INequality is nearly as high in the USA as it is in Turkey. I do not deny that there is a poor and exploited class of villagers and recent big city immigrants from the villages. That being said, if there is no middle class then how does one explain the literal explosion of ultra-chic and very modern shopping malls in major cities, especially Istanbul? Carrefour is almost everywhere. Hepsiburada is doing a booming business, I see mobile phones and laptops everywhere.

Post your comment

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
More Dispatches
Popular Standpoint topics